"Come Back For Me" by Heidi Perks
Shortly after my husband and I got married, I discovered that he wanted to buy a sailboat.
This seemed odd to me because, up to that point, I didn’t realize that sailboats were a thing that normal people owned. It seemed bougie and rich and we, two new college grads with freshly minted teaching licenses, were neither of those things.
When he told me, with extreme enthusiasm, of his desire to pilot a sailboat on Lake Erie, I simply couldn't muster the same excitement.
He was surprised and, in response, started asking about my interest in water sports.
And that’s when he discovered that I had absolutely no interest — zip, zilch, nada — in these types of activities.
Resigning himself to the fact that he was already saddled with me, he sighed and said, "Well, I guess you’re kind of a land mammal."
And while, 13 years later, that remains the oddest thing I've ever been called, I can’t in all honestly say it’s not a fitting description.
I definitely don't like being out in large bodies of water.
At the whim of the weather.
Paradoxically, however, I do fucking love shores.
Any kind of shore.
A lake shore.
An ocean shore.
Fuck, even a river bed or a creek bank.
I am entirely content to stand at the edge of the water, listening to the soothing white noise of the waves lapping against land. To smell the briney, earthy scent of aquatic plant and animal life. To ponder the vastness of the body of water and be once again reminded that we as humans are so very small.
Given this, I suspect I would have loved growing up on an island in England.
A shoreline and sexy accents?
Sign. Me. The. Fuck. Up!
Though Stella, the protagonist of Come Back For Me, the newest effort by Heidi Perks, was neither obsessed with the shore nor with the accents of the residents, she did enjoy her childhood living on Evergreen, a remote, sparsely populated island.
Born on the island, Stella had never known a different life.
So, when her father and mother hastily uprooted the family and insisted that they leave the island in the losing daylight as a storm approached, it understandably rocked her world.
Now an adult, Stella has never stopped thinking about her long-ago home.
Then, when she hears that a body has been discovered buried just past the property line of the Evergreen residence she once called home, what was previously a passive reflection suddenly becomes something so much more. With the embers of curiosity immediately sparking into a full-fledged flame, Stella feels she must return to the island she left so long ago and finally get answers to the questions she has tried for so long to ignore.
Unfortunately — and, to be honest, as you would expect — upon returning to the island, Stella finds that answers are not easy to come by.
As she seeks to determine who actually was buried at the back of her garden, how long the body has been resting in the shallow grave and, most importantly, who put it there, she discovers truths she was not ready to unearth and is forced to face the reality that very little of what she always believed to be fact was actually true.
To say that I was excited to pick up this book would be an understatement.
Given the strength of Perks’ previous novel, Her One Mistake, I was eager to see what she had in store next for her readers.
Probably due at least in part to the fact that I was so excited about this book, I consumed it in big gulps, finishing the whole relatively lengthy work in two days. As much as I wanted to pace myself and savor the read, I was just too taken with it, with the characters, with the rich world Perks built, to slow down and catch my breath.
In retrospect, I'm not sure that racing through this novel was the wisest choice. Like a heavy Sunday roast dinner, there was much to digest, and by reading it so ravenously, I'm not sure I gave myself time to do that.
At the pace I read, I still hadn’t gotten over the numbness following one shock before another hit, dulling me again.
The fact that I simply couldn’t put this book down for the majority of my read, though, is a clear indication that it was largely effective.
I found myself stealing minutes and seconds away from other tasks to eke out small blocks of reading time and canceling evening plans to allow for larger binges.
Perks managed to foster this desire to keep reading by carefully doling out the drama, revealing the truth little by little instead of waiting for the end and giving it to her readers in one huge chunk.
I liked this.
It prevented me from getting frustrated — as I certainly would have done had she made me wait 400-fucking-pages for even the littlest nibblet of an answer.
It also made the whole process of unraveling the mystery seem more realistic.
In real life, when people investigate a crime or solve a puzzle, they don’t go from knowing nothing to knowing everything within a matter of minutes. But, for some reason, that’s the way it’s depicted in too many thriller novels.
The protagonist knows nothing, until she knows everything.
Which is, as we can all agree, bullshit.
As much as I liked the book as a whole, though, I must admit that I… had an issue… with the resolution to the mystery.
My concern: it skated right on the edge of plausible.
As I approached the end of the book, I actually found myself saying, “Okay, I think I know where this is going and I hope I’m wrong because it is just so implausible.”
But… I wasn’t wrong.
Ultimately, the big, ground-breaking, life-changing, Earth-shattering truth we discover is just so, so, so unlikely.
And that really upset me.
Because… I was rooting for this book.
Another minor issue that I had with this novel: the title.
It was too... innocuous.
Several times during the two days I spent reading this book people asked me what I was reading and each time, if the book wasn't in arms reach, I had to struggle way more than I should have to remember what it was called.
Also, having finished it, I'm not even sure what the title means.
Who is coming back? Stella?
And who is she coming back for?
And… just… why?
Assigning a rating to this book is pretty ridiculously frustrating because it was admittedly unputdownable. I absolutely wanted to do nothing but read from the moment I picked it up until I turned the last page.
But when I did turn the last page I was so, so disappointed.
And because the ending really left me… wishing it had a different ending, this otherwise pretty awesome book earns 3 out of 5 cocktails.
Do you think it would be cool to grow up on a secluded island? Or would you miss the relative ease with which you can drive over to Target and buy a whole bunch of shit you don’t need? Tell me about it in the comments, below.
Moving right along.
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